Swapnil Patil: A former Mumbai Ranji Trophy probable will play for UAE today against India
Swapnil Patil has played alongside names like Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane in his younger days © Getty Images

Swapnil Patil grew up in Mumbai and played junior cricket alongside Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma. Back then, he would have hardly imagined facing his mates in international cricket. As opportunities were hard to come by in Mumbai, Patil flew to UAE to keep his cricketing dream alive. On the eve of UAE’s ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 clash against India, Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with Patil and spoke to him about the journey so far. (ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Full coverage)

In a city where maidans are flooded with young, aspiring cricketers, achieving that dream is a huge task. Mumbai has prided itself on its unique nature that has rubbed off on the cricketers who are resilient and have a khadoos [Mumbai slang for “never-say die”] attitude. Any cricketer playing the Kanga Leagues or even the A-Divisions embodies that trait. The best of the lot make it through to the Ranji Trophy side and a few go on to play for the country.

There are thousands who may have shown the spark at a young age, but lost out later on. Swapnil Patil was not ready to let his dream die and chose a different path that has got him fulfillment and the opportunity to play at the highest level. After all, he is the UAE wicketkeeper-batsman at ICC World Cup 2015.

Speaking to CricketCountry on the eve of UAE’s clash against India at the WACA, Patil looked back at his cricketing days in Mumbai: “I played for Mumbai from the Under-14 level. For three years I was in the probables for the Ranji Trophy. I did not get a chance, so I made a decision to go out somewhere and do something. I came to UAE and got a chance to play the World Cup. I have played with Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni. I am now playing against India, who have Rahane and Rohit.”

As one of the young cricketers playing alongside Rahane and Rohit, Patil may not have imagined playing against them at the highest level. But almost a decade down the line, they are on opposite sides in the biggest cricket extravaganza of all. “While you are right that I never expected I would play against India, I will enjoy while playing and try to do my best,” he says as he braces for a contest against some of his old mates. Kulkarni may only be a reserve, but Rohit and Rahane are very much a part of India’s plans.

With the endeavour to somehow play at the highest level, Patil made the bold move of going to Dubai. “I came to UAE in 2006, where I got a job with Yogi Group. My boss, Shiva Pagnani, helped me a lot. My family has also helped a lot,” Patil says. He is in constant touch with his folks back home, who are settled in a Mumbai suburb called Vasai.

Who will they support when the two teams clash on Saturday? “I speak to them every day over the phone. Firstly, they will support me. Of course, the Indian team is there and then their son is playing for the UAE team. I think they will mostly support me,” Patil says.

Generally, the hottest months in the summer i.e. July and August, are for vacations. Patil comes over to India for about a month but hardly gets to play a tournament in Mumbai. Moreover, he mostly comes when it pours down heavily in the city. “In a year I get about a month’s holiday, but there is no cricket as there is a lot of rain. I try to play when I go there, but there is hardly any time,” says Patil.

So far it has gone well for Patil and he remains one of their important players. He played for UAE during the ICC World T20 2014 in Bangladesh. On his One-Day International (ODI) debut against Scotland during the World Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand last year he scored 99 not out. Speaking about that innings, Patil says, “We went to the World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand. We had our final against Scotland and I was batting well against them. I scored 99 not out. I feel that is one good innings I have played. However, we lost that game.

Trivia: Patil and Eoin Morgan are the only batsmen to score 99 on ODI debut. Unlike Patil, however, Morgan had been dismissed.

UAE has a mixed diaspora and the team is hoping for their support. Patil feels that the Indian expatriates will root for UAE as his team has played well. “There are a lot of Indians in UAE. I think they will support us. We have played two matches so far and although we lost, we fought hard. So, I think they will root for us,” he concludes.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45. The above article first appeared in CricketCountry)